WALKING WEST: Man hiking across nation passes through Pike County

Published 4:00 am Friday, September 7, 2018

The idea of walking from coast to coast was planted in Florida resident William Smith’s mind nearly 30 years ago when he was just in his early twenties or late teens.

“I was reading a Reader’s Digest in a relative’s house and read a story about a guy who did it and saw his pictures all happy on the west coast and that just planted a seed,” Smith said.

Smith had stopped in at the Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library Thursday to reconnect with followers as he only checks in via Wi-Fi as he makes his journey.

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With no children at home and time to finally take the trip, he decided he would start his journey west.

“I’m at the point when I’m realizing there’s a lot more to life than just possessions,” Smith said. “I thought ‘I can do this now.’ So I talked to some people who have claimed to do it and talked to my daughter and she told me I should do it, so I went.”

Smith had just arrived to Brundidge Thursday after a wet day of walking up from Ozark Wednesday. He camped on the roadside overnight and finished his trek to Brundidge Thursday morning to regroup.

This is day 51 of a journey Smith said he expects to take a year or more to complete.

“I’m going to do it though,” Smith said. “Unless I break a leg, nothing is going to stop me.”

Smith said the walking was daunting initially, but now 390 miles in he no longer gets very tired or sore as he typically walks about 8 to 10 miles a day.

“I don’t have any set amount I have to walk each day,” Smith said. “I’m stopping in places like this and sort of planning it out as I go.”

A wildlife photographer, Smith said he doesn’t mind the outdoors conditions either and was excited to be able to take photos of wildlife along the way, although he has seen less than he would like.

“A fox tried to chew my shoe off one night though,” Smith said. “I don’t know what his deal was.”

By far, Smith said his favorite part of the trip has been travelling through the small towns and meeting all the people along the way.

“People just love to be nice in general,” Smith said. “Everybody has something good to say. A woman pulled up in one town and she told me she was just concerned and wanted to give me $20. I try to be honest with people, I tell them I’m not homeless, but she gave me the money anyway. I spent it all in town to keep the economy there.”

The hardest part, Smith said, is not the physical conditions but missing his grandchildren.

“Sometimes it just makes me want to cry, but my daughter and I have a really good relationship and she’s bound and determined that I see this through,” Smith said.

Smith will continue his journey by coming through Troy, probably today, and he said he wants to get off the road and take some pictures on campus and check out the town before he continues on his way to Montgomery. If he is still in town Saturday, he said he might even want to check out the Troy football game. But he does have a trip to make, so he can’t linger too long.

“I’m looking forward to the bragging rights when I get there,” Smith said.

To keep up with Smith’s journey, follow the Wills Walking West page on Facebook.